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New Taipei City to make final decision on public bike system

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Have you ever thought about renting a YouBike in Taipei City, ride it all the way to Tamsui and return the bike there? Well, you can't now, but this could happen in 2015 according to New Taipei City's public bike policy plan.

With Taipei City's popular YouBike bicycle sharing system way ahead of the rest of the other cities in Taiwan, New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) pledged to complete 300 public bike stations with 8,000 bikes before the end of 2016 and integrate Greater Taipei's bike rental system, nevertheless, the city will not decide which rental system to adopt until the second half of this year.

Banqiao District (板橋區) of New Taipei City in September last year launched 13 New Bike rental stations, a rental system that differs from Taipei's YouBike. Instead of receiving an overwhelming welcome from citizens, New Bike was criticized for its incompatible rental system with YouBike and insufficient stations.

Mayor Chu was reportedly angry with the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), the department that previously was in charge of the city's public bike sharing system, as it contracted out a different system from Taipei City, and as a result, citizens could not borrow a bike in New Taipei and return it to Taipei or vice versa .

Chu said a mistake made by the EPD caused a serious issue to Greater Taipei's public bike integration progress, noting that any future public transportation policy-making should operate with Greater Taipei in mind.

The mayor later ordered the Transportation Department to take over the bike-sharing project, and stressed that the incompatible system problem must be solved as soon as possible.

Six-month YouBike Demonstration Zone

New Taipei City Transportation Department Chief Secretary Wu Kuo-chi (吳國濟) told The China Post that as part of the mayor's public bike policy, the government plans to run both New Bike and Youbike at the same time for six months before the government makes a final decision on which rental system.

Wu said New Taipei is building a total of six YouBike stations in Xindian District (新店) and Xizhi District (汐止), noting that the locations of the stations are adjacent to the Mass Rapid Transportation (MRT) stations in Taipei.

Noting New Bike and YouBike's ways of charging are the same as in Taipei City, Wu said the first 30 minutes will be free-of-charge.

After the six-month trial on both rental systems, the New Taipei City Government will compare the two systems, and then hold an open tender for the three-year public bicycle system project.

“I would say YouBike has an advantageous position, but the government has to be fair and follow tendering procedures,” Wu said, stressing that the key issue is that the rental system must be compatible to Taipei's.

Draft of the Three-year Plan

New Taipei Transportation Department said should the city smoothly settle the rental system issue in six months' time, it will start establishing public bike stations in Hsinchuan District (新莊), Sanchong District (三重), Luzhou District (蘆洲), Zhonghe District (中和), and Yonghe District (永和) before the end of this year.

Bicycle stations in Linkou District (林口) and Tamsui District (淡水) are scheduled to be completed in 2015, the department said, noting that as for Banqiao, the city plans to build more stations in the area in 2016.

The department stressed that bike stations will be established along with public transportation systems like MRT stations or bus stations.

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